Hindi Film in Bangladeshi Cinema Hall: A Boon or Bane?
Campus Report :
The Department of Political Science and Sociology (PSS), North South University, arranged a webinar entitled "Hindi Film in Bangladeshi Cinema Hall: A Boon or Bane?" on 19/12/2020 at 11 am on the Zoom platform. In the program, a book named "Consuming Cultural Hegemony: Bollywood in Bangladesh" written by Dr. HarisurRahman, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science and Sociology, published by Palgrave Macmillan, was discussed and was formally launched. It is worthy to note here is that due to the impact of COVID-19 on the film industry, the Government of Bangladesh considers Hindi films in Bangladeshi cinema halls simultaneously with their release in India. Apart from a group of Bangladeshi film artists, most film industry people support the government's move to save the dying cinema halls, which have failed to draw an audience. Against this backdrop, North South University has arranged a webinar to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the film industry and Bollywood's impact on the Bangladeshi film industry, society, and culture. Renowned film scholar, filmmaker, producer, director, and film artist joined the webinar and reflected on the above issues.
Professor Sk. Tawfique M. Haque, Chair, PSS, and Director, SIPG at NSU, began the program by greeting the audience. As a moderator of the program, he said that if Bangladeshi private universities and the garment industry can survive competitions, the Bangladeshi film industry can also succeed through competition.
In his brief speech, Dr. HarisurRahman said that his book had explored the circulation and viewership of Bollywood films in Bangladesh. He said that the book examines the circulation and viewership of Bollywood films and film modernity in Bangladesh. It reports the results of ethnographic research conducted primarily in Dhaka and interviews with film viewers, circulators, actors, directors, producers, exhibitors, and critics. There is an extreme dearth of research on Bollywood film's circulation and viewership across South Asia, as described below. The book addresses some fundamental questions: what it means to be a Bangladeshi in South Asia, what it means to be a Bangladeshi fan of Hindi film, and how popular film reflects power relations in South Asia. He argues that the partition resulted in India holding hegemonic power over all of South Asia's nation-states at the political, economic, military levels-a situation that has made possible its cultural hegemony.
As a discussant, actor Mr. Riaz Ahamed said that we need the film industry's institutional infrastructure, and we also need long-term planning to make our film better and competitive. He said that we have to keep the right people in the right place. We need better content. He also talked about the construction of cinema halls and the incentives for the film industry. Renowned filmmaker Amitabh Reza Chowdhury said we need to have a "Film Commission" which will act in the same manner as the Election commission or Anti-Corruption Commission. We also need to thrive through competition. His movie "Aynabaji" was remade in the Telugu language, which might be the first Bangladeshi film to be remade in Telugu. He also talked about building new multiplexes for cinemas and how cinema hall owners deprive film producers of the stake of profit, referring to his own film Aynabaji in which he could not reap that much money from the hall owners though the film was a super hit.
Against the question of why they were against Hindi movies in 2011 and 2014 but now they support the release of Hindi films in Bangladeshi cinema halls, Mr. MushfiqurRahmanGulzar, President, Bangladesh Film Directors Association, said, until Bangladeshi films can stand on their own, we need to allow showing Hindi movies; it is a question of survival.
Dr. GitiaraNasreen, professor, Department of Mass Communication & Journalism, University of Dhaka, said the film industry needs institutional education. We need to systematically analyze and study production and distribution. Simultaneously, the media industry needs to create their narratives through stories seen in the Indian regional film industries.
Dr. Zakir Hossain Raju, Professor, Department of Media and Communication, Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB), said Cricket stars like Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim are the results of the existing structure of Bangladeshi cricket. To get the same results, the Bangladeshi media industry needs to take long term strategies.
Dr. SumonRahman, Professor, Department of Media Studies and Journalism, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB) said, Bangladeshi filmmakers, have misidentified the audience. Although the filmmakers thought vulgarity would attract the lower middle class, they have rejected those cinemas because of the same vulgarity. The lower middle class instead consume Indian Bangla movies. He also said that to save the Bangladeshi film industry, we need to vernacularize the movies. This process will attract a new set of audience.
As Chair of the session, Professor Atiqul Islam, Vice-Chancellor, North South University said, if Bollywood can survive despite Hollywood's hegemony, why wouldn't Bangladeshi cinema be successful. At the same time, French and Spanish movies have also maintained uniqueness despite Hollywood hegemony. The cinema industry should be like an open book exam where students can invent new ideas even though the book is open. He also said Bangladesh should maintain its principle of secularism to save the film industry.